Lilo put it well, “Ohana means family.” And I bet you can finish the rest…”Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” From there, the saying stuck like the orange li hing mui stains on your fingers – rapidly spreading across the globe as a little piece of the Hawaiian culture. Family in Hawaii has an extended meaning that includes more than just blood-related relatives. Some are hanai (adopted) or maybe spent a little too many nights sleeping over a friend’s house (like me growing up; I must have had a slew of “second families” throughout the Windward side!)

(Left) Me with my sister and cousins. (Right) Childhood cousins all grown up.

It’s interesting to note the evolution of the term “ohana,” which didn’t always include the neighbors down the street or one of your childhood besties. It used to be strictly a term to describe blood relationships. The root word oha in ohana refers to the root of the kalo plant, a Hawaiian staple believed to also be our first ancestor. But in contemporary Hawaii, everyone is someone’s aunty or uncle. We call older relatives “aunty” or “uncle” out of respect, even though they may not be related; whereas, in other places, they may address the elder with “Mr.,” “Ms.” or “Mrs.”

Oftentimes families are so big here that it’s difficult to get to know everyone. Even ‘til today, I’m still meeting extended relatives. We recently went to a get-together for my great aunty and uncle, who were visiting from the east coast. A super-casual-rubber-slipper style gathering – just the way I like it! As I walked up the driveway, it instantly felt like home – the barking dog inside sounded all too familiar; strangely similar to my dachshund. Turns out, it was practically a look-alike! The dog’s owner, Aunty Harune, and I instantly connected; talking “Doxie” with her made it feel like we’d known each other for years. The house full of first cousins, second cousins, grand-aunts and uncles, grandkids and so on made her home even more lively than the retro shag rugs that added to its vintage decor.

Making memories and capturing them through photos to enjoy for years to come!

Meeting my mom’s side of the family was an event in itself. From Uncle David’s magic tricks to feeding Sophie and Chibu (the family chinchilla and dachshund), there was laughter and memories to be had by everyone. And not to mention, the heaps of food to be had. Because Hawaii families are often made up of an array of ethnicities, the food spread can be a perse one as well. Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese and American dishes made their way into our tummies; right before picture taking, of all things! That meant some major sucking-in-tummy action.

(Top) Pumpkin brownie, anyone? The Lum family gathers around a table full of sweet treats. (Bottom) Meeting Sophie, the family chinchilla.

And we all know: It’s not official, ‘til it’s Facebook Official. As soon as we got home that day, I had a handful of friend requests from aunties and uncles and cousins. I swear it could’ve been made into a Facebook commercial – “Connecting loved ones…Virtually.” Or maybe a commercial on our Facebooking Grandma. But that’s a whole ‘notha story. LOL. Can’t wait for our next get-together. My second cousin, Holly, put it well. As quoted from a recent Wall post to me: “I’m sure there’s more family to meet!”

8 COMMENTS

  1. Mahalo Alyssa for sharing! ..and I can so relate as I, too, am “Hawaii Home Grown”. I remember most of our Ohana gatherings at Grandma’s house in Papakolea. Really good memories for so many years..one that stands out, is my grandpa’s 50th birthday, we had a mini luau, and grandma danced Pua Le Lehua for grandpa. To this day, that is my favorite ‘mele’.

  2. I absolutely love your story! Very well written! Spending the day with our extended family was so special. I’m really glad you and your sis came with me. I wanted you to meet Popo’s side of the family. We definitely need to get together more often! Thanks for writing this. It’s a very nice way to capture and hold onto the very special memories and precious moments of our ohana!

  3. Proud mommy above!!! and I am a very PROUD aunty of all your accomplishments!! I am too so happy that you and Ariel were able to come and share our day with us…..there will be more to come…gotta have the next generation hang together ya know??!! Again, mahalo for your mana’o and sharing this blog with us…..your talents are genuine….I cant wait to see more of you and your writings…..honi’s to Ariel….me ke aloha pumehana, ‘anake Malia

  4. Thank you ssoo much for sharing this! Ohana is such a powerful word in our family. We are always there for each other NO MATTER what the situation is and it is sssooo true about meeting “extended family”. In fact, we just found out about my dad’s younger sister who is now 28 years old. We got to FINALLY meet her about 2 years ago =) Ohana is everything to me =)

  5. Thanks for sharing Alyssa!! Family is everything, especially my extended family!
    We try to take photos every chance we get when we’re all together. I personally love to look at them and remember all of the cherished memories we’ve created 🙂

  6. Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments! I love reading about families and how they keep in touch, near or far. I feel so blessed to have met a side of my family I never really knew. Mahalo!

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